Steven A. Walton

Historian of Technology and Science


ABout me

I began my career as a mechanical engineer (B.S. Cornell; M.S. Caltech, robotics and fluid dynamics) and then turned to the history of engineering through the history of science and technology (M.A, Ph.D. Toronto). I am principally interested in the intersection of technology, its users, and the technical knowledge that they claim about it. Much of my work, though chronologically diverse, centers on military topics from arms and armor to artillery and the use of scientific instrumentation in war. My teaching focuses on the role of science and technology in the world and I teach on the history and philosophy of technology.

What I am up to (or, that to which I am up...)

  1.  I am finishing a book entitled Jaccopo Aconcio's Lost Book of Fortification that reproduces a treatise on fortification from the 1560s, when geometrical fortress design was just coming in.  The treatise is interesting because of Aconcio's career: a protestant Italian(!) who came to England in 1560 and was immediately given the first English patent (on furnaces), was given a contract to drain marshes east of London, and was asked to consult upon the construction of the fortress of Berwick-upon-Tweed.  This all the more interesting as Aconcio had no known engineering background at all; a renaissance humanist indeed!

  1. I've been working on all sorts of material connected to the West Point Foundry, a 19th-century iron ordnance foundry on the Hudson, and all its various interconnections with other foundries, the military, patronage systems, and even the art collecting interests of antebellum industrialists.  The special issue of IA: Industrial Archaeology on the WPF that I edited has just appeared!

•  A project that has been on the shelf for bit is the early history of the torpedo development at the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, RI (see the official history here).  This is fascinating to me as a historian of science, as although this was a military establishment, both the chemist (for explosives and torpedo propulsion) and the electrician (for detonation, among other things) were both civilians.




About Me

Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University

224 Academic Office Bldg, 1400 Townsend Dr., Houghton, MI 49931

906.487.3272    or